At this point you are all thinking "What the hell Aeryn? You're not posting anything but silly blogthing quizzes!" aren't you? Yup, I thought so.
Well here's why, short answer. I've been very worried about a dear, dear friend all weekend. One who I can't get a hold of, and may be stuff in the middle of a very sticky political mess because of her ethnicity. She is a Georgian citizen living in Moscow. (Georgia the country, not the state.) Or at least, she was living in Moscow as of Thursday, which was the last time Xombii or I heard from her. I've been busy hunting down Russian and Georgian news sites in English, and following the story all weekend.
Ready for the full story yet? Here it is-
I have a very dear friend, Xpyredmind, who was born in Georgia and lives in Moscow. She was a foreign exchange student with Xombii's family in high school, and he introduced us through the internet last winter. We immediately connected. In the sort of way that makes me believe in re-incarnation, because there is no other way to explain the way we both instantly warmed to each other. It felt like I had known her all of my life, or perhapes since the beginning of time.
It's not just that I found her to be sweet, and funny, and easy to love. (Although I did.) Or what she had also liked me instantly too. (Although she did.) It wasn't like meeting a stranger that you know you will become friends with. It was more like feeling of a being reunited with a long lost, and much loved friend. We understand each other in the sort of way that only long time friends can. Despite the fact that we don't have that history of shared experiences, and in fact have hugely different pasts. I'm struggling to try to explain my feeling to you here, maybe because I have difficulty explaining them to myself. I suppose that if you have a friendship like this, you will understand. It's not a romantic feeling, nor is it purely just friendship. It goes beyond both. I don't think that there are words for what I want to say. At least not in the English language.
It's probably about time that I start detailing the current situation anyway. I'm going to reference the BBC a lot in here, so please trust me that I've done my homework on this one, because I have. I'll note the other sources I used too. The BBC simply has the most concise articles I've seen. Plus, the articles are written by some one for whom English is their native language, so it's a bit easier to read. If you would like a little background info on the two countries, here is the BBC's profiles for Georgia, and profile for Russia. Here is a good Q&A on Russian-Georgian Ties & Relations.
Here is a pretty good, but very general, article summarizing the events of the past week from Georgia Today.
I'm going to do this in a timeline. I think it will make it easier all around. I'll include links to relevant articles for those who want to a more in depth view of the situation.
Fri, Oct. 27 -
- Georgians arrest four Russian military officers in Tblisi, the capital, and charged them with spying.
- Moscow immediately demanded their release. Russian president Vladimir Putin says that they if the officers are not returned, Russia will get them back by what ever means necessary.
- Russia's migration service suspends the issuing of all visas to Georgians, and says that 180-day visas held by Georgians already in Russia would be cut to 90 days.
- Georgian citizens on watch growing developments with unease, and pride.
- Georgia's stance sparks pride and fear- BBC Article
Sun. Oct. 1-
Mon. Oct. 2-
- Georgia releases the four Russian officers. They are not doing it because of threats from Russia, or international pressure they say, but as a gesture of goodwill.
- Russia suspends all transportation, post, and money transfers between Russia & Georgia.
Tues. Oct. 3-
- Despite the release of four Russian officers, Russia refuses to lift sanctions.
- Moscow maintains Georgia blockade - BBC
- EU urges Russia to end blockade -BBC
- Unease grips Georgians in Russia - BBC
Thurs. Oct. 5-
- Russia's parliament backs President Putin tough sanctions against Georgia.
- Georgian restaurants and businesses are raided.
- Russia's migration service says that the suspension of visas to Georgians would be extended, and that 180-day visas held by Georgians already in Russia would be cut to 90 days.
- Xombii talks to Xpyredmind briefly on IM. This is the last time that she is on line that I know of.
- Russia turns screw on Georgians - BBC
Fri. Oct. 6-
- Between 130 - 150 Georgian citizens are deported to Tbilsi on supposed visa violations. The Georgians were rounded up in police raids over the previous week. Some deportees say that their documents are in order. Some are married to Russian citizens, have children who are Russian citizens, and have been living in Russia for 20 years or more.
- The Russian plane takes 178 Russians out of Georgia, which Moscow claims is now for its citizens.
- Georgian officials are at the airport to hand each one a basket of grapes and two bottles of wine - one white, one red - before they climbed on board. They were also given red roses, the symbol of a 2003 "Rose Revolution," which propelled Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili to power.
- None of the Russians who spoke to Reuters said they were leaving because they feared staying in Georgia.
- Moscow police ask schools to draw up lists of pupils with Georgian surnames as part of their search for illegal immigrants. Raids on Georgian businesses and citizens continue.
- Georgians deported as row deepens - BBC
- Georgia deportees describe ordeal - BBC
Sat. Oct. 7-
- Georgia's Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili calls Russia's actions a "mild form of ethnic cleansing."
- Georgia chides Russia 'cleansing' - BBC
- Russia tightens screws by starting to deport Georgian 'illegals' - The Independent
- Georgia deportees fly in, Russians leave with wine - Reuters
Sun. Oct. 8-
- Georgia's President Saakashvili prohibits the landing at the Tbilisi airport of Russian emergencies ministry's cargo planes carrying Georgian citizens, saying it was unacceptable to use cargo planes to transport people.
- Russia has no plans to annex Georgian territories - Ivanov - RIA Novosti
Mon. Oct. 9-
- At least 200 additional Georgians living in Moscow await deportation. Some accounts put that number at over 300.
- Even if all their paperwork was in order, Georgian citizens will not be able to go back to Russia for the next five years because of the large stamps in their passports that say DEPORTED.
- Georgians all over Moscow are increasingly afraid because of police round-ups, raids, and civilian violence and hate crimes against Georgians. Many do not want leave their homes. Many no longer have jobs to go to even if they did leave.
- Still no word from my friend. I'm trying to tell myself that she's just laying low for a few days, or spent the weekend at a friends house. I really, really hope that is what is going on.
- Georgian Deportations are "Soft Ethnic Cleansing" - The Messenger
- Georgia delays Russian expulsions - BBC
- Russia asks Georgia to admit 2 evacuating planes in next 2 days - RIA Novosti
- Fearful Georgians Shut Down Stalls and Eateries - The Moscow Times.
- Georgia punished over spy arrests - The Australian
- How the 'Spy Row' as it is being called, started to escalate (BBC Oct. 03, 2006 1min 34sec)
- Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili speaks out (BBC Oct. 02, 2006 3min 10sec)
- In pictures: Russia-Georgia crisis (BBC Oct. 02, 2006)
- In pictures: Russia-Georgia row (BBC Oct. 06, 2006)